The Professional Photographer Wears Multiple Hats

I was asked by a client recently if I could photograph an event and just deliver all the RAW photos for them to edit themselves. Being a professional, I had to explain why delivering “uncooked” images is a totally unprofessional and wrong way to work. That’s essentially asking for you to start the work, but not finish the job. Because there is more than one hat a professional photographer has to wear.

  1. Businessperson hat, someone who can take the order, get it right, show up on time and complete the job.
  2. Photographer hat, someone who knows what to shoot, and how to not miss key moments at an event.
  3. Psychologist hat, someone who is unobtrusive but has techniques for talking to people, getting them relaxed to make the best shots.
  4. Content Manager hat, someone who creates storage files and backup files and good records on how to find them for future use.
  5. Editor hat, someone who knows out of the 600 or 950 or 1700 images created, how to edit them into a tight package that isn’t redundant, that tells the story in as strong and tight of an edit as possible.
  6. Photoshopper hat, someone who knows how to tone the photos to make them look their best.
  7. Delivery person hat, someone who knows how to deliver the photographs whether by web gallery or a zip file or prints.

Unfortunately, asking for all the RAW files eliminates the key hat–the editor’s hat. The job of a professional isn’t just to make photographs but to edit them tightly into a manageable package that doesn’t overwhelm the client. Nobody wants to look at 1200 photos from their event. 100-200 max, and even that’s a lot.

Delivering RAW files means you went to the restaurant, ordered the Filet Mignon, and made a note to the chef, “Don’t bother cooking it, just drop the uncooked meat on my plate.”

It wouldn’t happen.

It’s unprofessional.

And it’s done all the time nowadays with new photographers wanting to do the shoot part, and not being overly concerned with what the final photographs look like, or caring even though it’s their name on them.

I’ve heard them say, “I just give them all of them on a flash drive at the end of the event, I don’t care what they do with them, I’m done. I just like to shoot.”

I would suspect that person isn’t a very good businessperson, photographer, psychologist, content manager, editor, photoshopper or delivery person. More of a person with a camera.

Which doesn’t make them qualified to be commissioning commercial photography shoots. Yet, doesn’t stop them.

We need to start an educational campaign for photographers: “Say no to RAW delivery,” if you want anyone to take you seriously as a professional photographer. If you care about what the work with your name on it, what it looks like.

The “photographer” who delivers RAW files and then walks away–well, clients often finds the whole affair stinks after a few days, (like all old RAW meat) once the low price has worn off, and they realize the unedited photographs are not only not that good, but they, the client will probably not get around to looking at them all.

I find it fascinating that, especially with the editor hat, how many people don’t realize the importance of being able to finish the job. How they deliver an overwhelming quantity of images that poorly tells the story of the event.

The goal needs to be to deliver a fine, high-quality chef-prepared meal, not an uncooked one.

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Check out my YouTube Channel of Photography Talks: my 6×6 Portraits Blog (you’re here) and my Daily Photography Podcast. Thanks!

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